Manila hostage ends; hijacker, seven tourists dead

The 12-hr hostage drama ended with the death of the hostage taker of a bus in Manila. Out of the 15 tourists on-board 7 are dead.

Last Updated: Aug 23, 2010, 20:54 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

Manila: The 12 hour hostage drama ended with the death of the hostage taker of the bus in Manila on Monday. The Philippines police gunned down the hijacker in a fierce operation and at least seven Chinese tourists were also dead, Officials said.

At least six captives survived, four of whom were seen crawling out the back door of the bus after Philippine police stormed it, said police Senior Superintendent Nelson Yabut.

The bus was hijacked by an ex- police officer demanding reinstatement to service.

Police said the hostage-taker was killed with a sniper shot to the head after he wounded a police sharpshooter.

Earlier TV channels beamed live images of commandos surrounding the Hong Thai Travel bus and trying to break open the door and smashing glass windows with axes.

Gunshots were heard indicating that the hostage-taker had fired in-return. Police fear the shots may have been directed at the tourists on board. The driver of the bus has escaped, taking advantage of the deadly chaos.

The police were successful in breaking open the emergency door at the one end of the bus. Ambulances were rushed in and official confirmation is still awaited on the situation in the bus. Confusion reigned supreme on the ground as more fire-shots were heard even as ambulances rushed in.

There were 25 people on board when the crisis began as Rolando Mendoza boarded it with a gun, Manila District Police Chief Rodolfo Magtibay said.

Earlier in the day the gunman released nine of the hostages and demanded his job back to free the rest. Police sharpshooters took positions around the white-blue-red bus, which was parked near a downtown Manila park.

The road was sealed off as officers negotiated with the hostage-taker. Ambulances with stretchers and fire trucks were positioned nearby.

Hours after seizing the bus, he released two women, three children, a diabetic man and three Filipinos — including a tour guide and a photographer, police said. The Filipino driver was still on the bus together with 15 tourists.

"He has released children, the elderly and the sick. He is showing signs of kindness and I think this will be resolved peacefully," said Fidel Posadas, police deputy director for operations.

Mendoza, 55, was armed with an M16 rifle. He demanded he be given back his job on the police force a year after he was fired, Magtibay said.

According to newspaper reports from 2008, he was among five officers charged with robbery, extortion and grave threats after a Manila hotel chef filed a complaint alleging the policemen falsely accused him of using drugs to extort money.

A Chinese diplomat who was monitoring Monday`s negotiations said the hostages were "calm and peaceful" and appealed to Philippine authorities not to jeopardize their safety as the daylong talks with the gunman continued into the evening.

Bai Tian, deputy mission chief at the Chinese Embassy, told reporters they wanted every step taken "to secure the safety and security of our Chinese nationals."

Police brought in food for the hostages as well as fuel so the air conditioning unit can keep running as the outside temperature reached about 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius).

Hong Thai Travel Services Ltd. General Manager Susanna Lau told Hong Kong`s Cable TV the tour group had left the Chinese territory of Hong Kong on Aug. 20 for a visit to Manila and was scheduled to fly back to Hong Kong on Monday. She said a Hong Kong tour guide and 20 tourists from the territory — three children and 17 adults — were on the bus.

Mendoza hitched a ride on the bus from the historic walled city of Intramuros and then "declared he is taking the passengers hostage" when it reached Jose Rizal Park alongside Manila Bay, Magtibay said.

The area also includes the seaside US Embassy and a number of hotels.

Apart from demanding his reinstatement, Mendoza also wanted to talk to the Philippine media and asked that his son — also a policeman — be brought to him. He scribbled some of his demands on paper and plastered it on the bus windows and a windshield.

A representative from the ombudsman`s office talked to Mendoza on the phone and promised to look into his case again, Mendoza`s brother, Florencio, told reporters.

The curtains on the bus windows were drawn and live TV footage showed two police negotiators walking to and from the bus and communicating with Mendoza from the window near the driver`s seat.

Magtibay said they were also using the driver`s mobile phone to talk to Mendoza. Another brother of Mendoza also was helping police in the negotiations, Magtibay said.

"We should really resolve this quickly so that it will not have a wider effect," Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim said.

Mendoza`s younger brother, Gregorio, also a policeman, said his brother felt "injustice was done on him" when he was fired.

"He was disappointed that he did well in police service but was dismissed for a crime he did not do," he said.

In March 2007, not far from Monday`s hostage-taking, a man took a busload of children and teachers hostage from his day-care center in Manila to denounce corruption. They were freed after a 10-hour standoff.

With agency inputs